No, Doctrinal Deal-breakers Dissociative Disorder (DDDD), is not a real thing. I just made it up. But if one were to look at the sheer number of denominations, somewhere between 217 and 3300 (yeah, I know), and question the reason that Christ’s followers are so fragmented, then that one would be justified in asking”Why?” and likewise wondering what causes it.
Certainly one of Christ’s mandates is for union and connectivity. Denominationalism’s momentum is to the contrary. Perhaps, as a friend recently suggested, denominationalism is personal. By that, he meant that the wondrous diversity of God’s creation is reflected in all of creation including how people gather and express themselves while they are gathered and when they scatter to do Christ’s will. Personalities, passions, and predilections differ, so why not gather with those who are ‘more in line’ with your inclinations and rhythm? I think he’s right in part. Also, Culture plays a critical role; people from different cultures practice their faith in distinctive ways. It should not surprise us if churches in a middle-class suburb of the Carolinas are extremely different from those in a war-torn, poverty-stricken village in Africa. Consequently, churches and whole denominations will vary greatly depending upon the geographical location and cultural values of the people themselves.
That said, and in my opinion, I believe the most predominant reason given by those who call themselves ‘Christian’ when asked, for dividing into different camps, or dissociating from other Christians, is doctrinal. There are apparently certain doctrinal deal-breakers in the formation of local fellowships that cannot be overcome. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Is it? After all, Jesus did say;
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father. . . . I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
At this point some might just say that denominations are made of of churches and churches are made up of people and people are still a ‘a work in progress,’ so we need to just try to get along. Another might raise the old adage often attributed to Augustine; “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity,” but denominational infighting and the continual adding of even more denominations seems to suggest otherwise. The consensus of what constitutes the ‘essentials’ cannot be reached.
And so, the entire reason for this post is to ask you these 3 questions;
1. What are your doctrinal deal-breakers?
2. What sort of doctrinal differences would justify your dissociation from other Christ followers?
3. If we can agree on who Christ is and what His message is, what more do we need for unity?